The capacity for social media to influence the utilization of re-purposed medicines to manage COVID-19, despite limited availability of safety and efficacy data, is a cause for concern within health care systems. This study sought to ascertain links between social media reports and utili-zation for three re-purposed medicines: hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), ivermectin and colchicine. A combined retrospective analysis of social media posts for these three re-purposed medicines was undertaken, along with utilization and clinical trials data, in South Africa, between January 2020 and June 2021. In total, 77,257 posts were collected across key social media platforms, of which 6884 were relevant. Ivermectin had the highest number of posts (55%) followed by HCQ (44%). The spike in ivermectin use was closely correlated to social media posts. Similarly, regarding chlo-roquine (as HCQ is not available in South Africa), social media interest was enhanced by local politicians. Sentiment analysis revealed that posts regarding the effectiveness of these repurposed medicines were positive. This was different for colchicine, which contributed only a small number of mentions (1%). Of concern is that the majority of reporters in social media (85%) were uniden-tifiable. This study provides evidence of social media as a driver of re-purposed medicines. Healthcare professionals have a key role in providing evidence-based advice especially with unidentifiable posts.

Cite as

Schellack, N., Strydom, M., Pepper, M., Herd, C., Hendricks, C., Bronkhorst, E., Meyer, J., Padayachee, N., Bangalee, V., Truter, I., Ellero, A., Myaka, T., Naidoo, E. & Godman, B. 2022, 'Social media and COVID-19 – perceptions and public deceptions of ivermectin, colchicine and hydroxychloroquine: lessons for future pandemics', Antibiotics, 11(4), article no: 445. https://doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics11040445

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 16 June 2022
Was this page helpful?